Vegetation History and Archaeobotany

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 181–197 | Cite as

Grazing impacts and woodland management in Eriksfjord: Betula, coprophilous fungi and the Norse settlement of Greenland

Original Article

Abstract

This paper focuses on the impact of Norse settlement on vegetation and landscape around the head of Tunulliarfik (Eriksfjord) in southern Greenland. Pollen, radiocarbon, microscopic charcoal and fungal spore data are presented from a peat monolith which was collected close to the ruins of a large Norse farm complex (group Ø39 at Qinngua in the former Eastern Settlement). Landnám is identified at ca. cal. a.d. 1020 by a small decrease in pollen from Betula, a slight increase in Poaceae, and the appearance of pollen from Norse apophytes (native plants favoured and spread by human activity) and anthropochores (not native and unintentionally introduced by people). Increases in microscopic charcoal and palynological richness are also apparent. This pattern is broadly consistent with that seen in other pollen diagrams from this region. The sequence is unusual for Greenland, however, in that relatively high Betula pollen percentages (average 20% TLP) are recorded throughout the period of settlement, up to the end of the 14th century a.d. before the profile becomes truncated. If these data are primarily representative of the dry land vegetation, then they suggest that birch woodland and scrub may well have persisted close to the farm throughout the Norse period. Given the potential resource value of woodland to the settlers, this may imply that birch was being managed sustainably, as was the case in Iceland during the medieval period. Coprophilous fungal spores typically found on animal dung are abundant during the early phase of settlement, yet subsequently decline in abundance. This may indicate a likely decrease in grazing intensity or livestock numbers over time, possibly in response to climatic deterioration and/or soil erosion that is expected to have placed increased stress on the pastoral farming system.

Keywords

Greenland Norse Pollen analysis Betula Woodland management Coprophilous fungal spores 

References

  1. Allaart JH (1976) Ketilidian mobile belt in South Greenland. In: Escher A, Watt WS (eds) Geology of Greenland. The Geological Survey of Greenland, Copenhagen, pp 120–151Google Scholar
  2. Amorosi T, Buckland PC, Edwards KJ, Mainland I, McGovern TH, Sadler JP, Skidmore P (1998) They did not live by grass alone: the politics and palaeoecology of animal fodder in the North Atlantic region. Environ Archaeol 1:41–54Google Scholar
  3. Andersen ST (1979) Identification of wild grass and cereal pollen. Danm Geol Unders Årbog 1978:69–92Google Scholar
  4. Andersen ST (1988) Changes in agricultural practices in the Holocene indicated in a pollen diagram from a small hollow in Denmark. In: Birks HH, Birks HJB, Kaland PE, Moe D (eds) The cultural landscape—past, present and future. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 395–407Google Scholar
  5. Arneborg J, Heinemeier J, Lynnerup N, Nielsen HL, Rud N, Sveinbjörnsdóttir AE (1999) Change of diet of the Greenland Vikings determined from stable carbon isotope analysis and 14C dating of their bones. Radiocarbon 41:157–168Google Scholar
  6. Austad I (1988) Tree pollarding in western Norway. In: Birks HH, Birks HJB, Kaland PE, Moe D (eds) The cultural landscape—past, present and future. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 11–29Google Scholar
  7. Barlow LK, Sadler JP, Ogilvie AEJ, Buckland PC, Amorosi T, Ingimundarson JH, Skidmore P, Dugmore AJ, McGovern TH (1997) Interdisciplinary investigations of the end of the Norse Western Settlement in Greenland. Holocene 7:489–499CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bay C (1992) A phytogeographical study of the vascular plants of northern Greenland—north of 74° northern latitiude. Medd Grønland, Biosci 36:1–102Google Scholar
  9. Behre K-E (1988) The rôle of man in European vegetation history. In: Huntley B, Webb T III (eds) Vegetation history. Kluwer, Dordrecht, pp 633–672Google Scholar
  10. Bennett KD (1994) Confidence intervals for age estimates and deposition times in late-Quaternary sediment sequences. Holocene 4:337–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bennett KD (2010a) Catalogue of pollen types. http://www.chrono.qub.ac.uk/pollen/pc-intro.html. Accessed October 2010
  12. Bennett KD (2010b) Psimpoll and pscomb programs for plotting and analysis. http://www.chrono.qub.ac.uk/psimpoll/psimpoll.html. Accessed June 2010
  13. Bennett KD, Fuller JL (2002) Determining the age of the mid-Holocene Tsuga canadensis (hemlock) decline, eastern North America. Holocene 12:421–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Berglund J (1986) The decline of the Norse settlements in Greenland. Arct Anthropol 23:109–135Google Scholar
  15. Birks HJB (1968) The identification of Betula nana pollen. New Phytol 67:309–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Birks HJB, Line JM (1992) The use of rarefaction analysis for estimating palynological richness from Quaternary pollen-analytical data. Holocene 2:1–10Google Scholar
  17. Blackford JJ, Innes JB (2006) Linking current environments and processes to fungal spore assemblages: surface NPM data from woodland environments. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:179–187CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Böcher TW (1954) Oceanic and continental vegetational complexes in southwest Greenland. Medd Grønland 148:1–336Google Scholar
  19. Böcher TW, Holmer K, Jakobsen K (1968) The flora of Greenland. P Haase, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  20. Bruun D (1895) Arkæologiske undersøgelse i Julianehaabs distrikt. Medd Grønland 16(3):171–461Google Scholar
  21. Bruun D (1918) The Icelandic colonization of Greenland and the finding of Vineland. Medd Gronland 57:1–228Google Scholar
  22. Bryan MS (1954) Interglacial pollen spectra from Greenland. In: Iversen J (ed) Studies in vegetational history in honour of Knud Jessen. Danm Geol Unders II Række 80, pp 65–72Google Scholar
  23. Buckland PC (2000) The North Atlantic environment. In: Fitzhugh WW, Ward EI (eds) Vikings: the North Atlantic saga. Smithsonian Books, Washington, pp 146–153Google Scholar
  24. Buckland PC, Edwards KJ, Panagiotakopulu E, Schofield JE (2009) Palaeoecological and historical evidence for manuring and irrigation at Garðar (Igaliku), Norse Eastern Settlement, Greenland. Holocene 19:105–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Calib (2010) http://intcal.qub.ac.uk/calib/. Accessed June 2010
  26. CaliBomb (2010) http://intcal.qub.ac.uk/CALIBomb/frameset.html. Accessed June 2010
  27. Caseldine C (2001) Changes in Betula in the Holocene record from Iceland—a palaeoclimatic record or evidence for early Holocene hybridisation? Rev Palaeobot Palynol 117:139–152CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Church MJ, Dugmore AJ, Mairs KA, Millard AR, Cook GT, Sveinbjarnardóttir G, Ascough PA, Roucoux KH (2007) Charcoal production during the Norse and early Medieval periods in Eyjafjallahreppur, southern Iceland. Radiocarbon 49:659–672Google Scholar
  29. Cugny C, Mazier F, Galop D (2010) Modern and fossil non-pollen palynomorphs from the Basque mountains (western Pyrenees, France): the use of coprophilous fungi to reconstruct pastoral activity. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:391–408CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Davis OK (1987) Spores of the dung fungus Sporormiella: increased abundance in historic sediments and before Pleistocene megafaunal extinction. Quat Res 28:290–294CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. De Klerk P, Donner N, Joosten H, Karpov NS, Minke M, Seifert N, Theuerkauf M (2009) Vegetation patterns, recent pollen deposition and distribution of non-pollen palynomorphs in a polygon mire near Chokurdakh (NE Yakutia, NE Siberia). Boreas 38:39–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Dugmore AJ, Church MJ, Buckland PC, Edwards KJ, Lawson I, McGovern TH, Panagiotakopulu E, Simpson IA, Skidmore P, Sveinbjarnardóttir G (2005) The Norse landnám on the North Atlantic islands: an environmental impact assessment. Polar Rec 41:21–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Dugmore AJ, Church MJ, Mairs K-A, McGovern TH, Newton AJ, Sveinbjarnardóttir G (2006) An over-optimistic pioneer fringe? Environmental perspectives on Medieval settlement abandonment in Þórsmörk, South Iceland. In: Arneborg J, Grønnow B (eds) Dynamics of northern societies. (National Museum Studies in Archaeology and History Vol. 10). Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, pp 335–346Google Scholar
  34. Dugmore AJ, Keller C, McGovern TH (2007) Norse Greenland settlement: reflections on climate change, trade, and the contrasting fates of human settlements in the North Atlantic islands. Arct Anthropol 44:12–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Edwards KJ, Schofield JE, Mauquoy D (2008) High resolution paleoenvironmental and chronological investigations of Norse landnám at Tasiusaq, Eastern Settlement, Greenland. Quat Res 69:1–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Edwards KJ, Erlendsson E, Schofield JE (in press a) Is there a Norse ‘footprint’ in North Atlantic pollen records? In: Proceedings of the XVIth Viking Congress, Reykjavík and ReykholtGoogle Scholar
  37. Edwards KJ, Schofield JE, Arneborg J (in press b) Was Erik the Red’s Brattahlið located at Qinngua? A dissenting view. Viking and Medieval ScandinaviaGoogle Scholar
  38. Erlendsson E (2007) Environmental change around the time of the Norse settlement of Iceland. Unpublished doctoral thesis, University of AberdeenGoogle Scholar
  39. Feeser I, O’Connell M (2010) Late Holocene land-use and vegetation dynamics in an upland karst region based on pollen and coprophilous fungal spores analysis: an example from the Burren, western Ireland. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:409–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Feilberg J (1984) A phytogeographical study of south Greenland. Vascular plants. Medd Grønland, Biosci 15:1–69Google Scholar
  41. Feilberg J, Folving S (1990) Mapping and monitoring of woodlands and scrub vegetation in Qingua-dalen, south Greenland. Medd Grønland, Biosci 33:9–20Google Scholar
  42. Fitzhugh WW, Ward EI (eds) (2000) Vikings: the North Atlantic saga. Smithsonian Books, WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  43. Fredskild B (1973) Studies in the vegetational history of Greenland. Medd Grønland 198:1–245Google Scholar
  44. Fredskild B (1978) Palaeobotanical investigations of some peat deposits of Norse age at Qagssiarssuk, south Greenland. Medd Grønland 204:1–41Google Scholar
  45. Fredskild B (1988) Agriculture in a marginal area—south Greenland from the Norse landnam (985 A.D.) to the present (1985 A.D.). In: Birks HH, Birks HJB, Kaland PE, Moe D (eds) The cultural landscape—past, present and future. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 381–393Google Scholar
  46. Fredskild B (1991) The genus Betula in Greenland—Holocene history, present distribution and synecology. Nordic J Bot 11:393–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Fredskild B (1992) Erosion and vegetational changes in south Greenland caused by agriculture. Geogr Tidsskr 92:14–21Google Scholar
  48. Fredskild B (1996) A phytogeographical study of the vascular plants of west Greenland (62°20′–74°00′ N). Medd Grønland, Biosci 45:1–157Google Scholar
  49. Gauthier E, Bichet V, Massa C, Petit C, Vannière B, Hervé R (2010) Pollen and non-pollen palynomorph evidence of medieval farming activities in southwestern Greenland. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:427–438CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Göransson H (1987) Neolithic man and the forest environment around Alvastra pile dwelling. (Theses and Papers in North-European Archaeology 20) Lund University Press, StockholmGoogle Scholar
  51. Graf M-T, Chmura GL (2006) Development of modern analogues for natural, mowed and grazed grasslands using pollen assemblages and coprophilous fungi. Rev Palaeobot Palynol 141:139–149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Grimm EC (1987) CONISS: a FORTRAN 77 program for stratigraphically constrained cluster analysis by the method of incremental sum of squares. Comput Geosci 13:13–35CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Grimm EC (1991) TILIA and TILIA*GRAPH. Illinois State Museum, SpringfieldGoogle Scholar
  54. Grimm EC (2010) TGView Version 2.0.2. http://intra.museum.state.il.us/pub/grimm/. Accessed June 2010
  55. Grønnow B, Sørensen M (2006) Palaeo-eskimo migrations into Greenland: the Canadian connection. In: Arneborg J, Grønnow B (eds) Dynamics of northern societies. (National Museum Studies in Archaeology and History Vol. 10). Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen, pp 59–74Google Scholar
  56. Guldager O (2002) Brattahlíð reconsidered. Some thoughts on the social structure of Medieval Norse Greenland, and the location of Brattahlíð. Archaeol Islandica 2:74–97Google Scholar
  57. Guldager O, Stummann Hansen S, Gleie S (2002) Medieval farmsteads in Greenland. The Brattahlid Region 1999–2000. (Danish Polar Center Publications 9). Danish Polar Center, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  58. Hallsdóttir M (1987) Pollen analytical studies of human influence on vegetation in relation to the landnám tephra layer in southwest Iceland. (Lundqua Thesis 18) University of LundGoogle Scholar
  59. Havinga AJ (1984) A 20-year experimental investigation into the differential corrosion susceptibility of pollen and spores in various soil types. Pollen Spores 26:541–558Google Scholar
  60. Hua Q, Barbetti M (2004) Review of tropospheric bomb 14C data for carbon cycle modeling and age calibration purposes. Radiocarbon 46:1,273–1298Google Scholar
  61. Ingstad H (1966) Land under the Pole Star. Jonathan Cape, LondonGoogle Scholar
  62. Innes J, Blackford J, Simmons I (2010) Woodland disturbance and possible land-use regimes during the Late Mesolithic in the English uplands: pollen, charcoal and non-pollen palynomorph evidence from Bluewath Beck, North York Moors, UK. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:439–452CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Jacobsen NK (1987) Studies on soils and potential for soil erosion in the sheep farming area of south Greenland. Arct Alp Res 19:498–507CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Jacobson GL, Bradshaw RHW (1981) The selection of sites for paleovegetational studies. Quat Res 16:80–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Jakobsen BH (1991) Soil resources and soil erosion in the Norse settlement area of Østerbygden in southern Greenland. Acta Boreal 1:56–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Jansen HM (1972) A critical account of the written and archaeological sources’ evidence concerning the Norse settlements in Greenland. Medd Grønland 182:1–158Google Scholar
  67. Jones G (1984) A history of the Vikings, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  68. Krogh KJ (1967) Viking Greenland. National Museum of Denmark, CopenhagenGoogle Scholar
  69. Kruys Å, Ericson L (2008) Species richness of coprophilous ascomycetes in relation to variable food intake by herbivores. Fungal Divers 30:73–81Google Scholar
  70. Lynnerup N (1998) The Greenland Norse: a biological-anthropological study. Medd Grønland, Man Soc 24:1–149Google Scholar
  71. Mainland I (2006) Pastures lost? A dental microwear study of ovicaprine diet and management in Norse Greenland. J Archaeol Sci 33:238–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Mäkelä E (1998) The Holocene history of Betula at Lake Iilompolo, Inari Lapland, northeastern Finland. Holocene 8:55–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Malmros C (1994) Exploitation of local, drifted and imported wood by the Vikings on the Faroe Islands. Bot J Scot 46:552–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Matthews JA, Briffa KR (2005) The ‘Little Ice Age’: re-evaluation of an evolving concept. Geograf Annaler 87A:17–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. McAndrews JH, Turton CL (2010) Fungal spores record Iroquoian and Canadian agriculture in 2nd millennium a.d. sediment of Crawford Lake, Ontario, Canada. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:495–501CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. McCune B, Mefford MJ (1999) PC-ORD. Multivariate analysis of ecological data, version 4. MjM Software Design, Gleneden Beach, OregonGoogle Scholar
  77. McGovern TH (1985) Contributions to the palaeoeconomy of Norse Greenland. Acta Archaeol 54:73–122Google Scholar
  78. Moore PD (1993) The origin of blanket mire, revisited. In: Chambers FM (ed) Climate change and human impact on the landscape. Chapman and Hall, London, pp 217–224Google Scholar
  79. Moore PD, Webb JA, Collinson ME (1991) Pollen analysis, 2nd edn. Blackwell, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  80. Ólafsson (2008) Ta din hall och gå - Med huset i släptåg. In: Paulsen C, Michelsen HD (eds) Símunarbók. Heiðursrit til Símun V. Arge á 60 ára degnum. Fróðskapur, Faroe University Press, Tórshavn, pp 193–199Google Scholar
  81. Pálsson H (1971) Hrafnkel’s saga and other Icelandic stories. Penguin, HarmondsworthGoogle Scholar
  82. Patterson WA III, Edwards KJ, Maguire DJ (1987) Microscopic charcoal as a fossil indicator of fire. Quat Sci Rev 6:3–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Pedersen A (1972) Adventitious plants and cultivated plants in Greenland. Medd Grønland 178:1–99Google Scholar
  84. Porsild MP (1932) Alien plants and apophytes of Greenland. Medd Grønland 92:1–85Google Scholar
  85. Raper D, Bush M (2009) A test of Sporormiella representation as a predictor of megaherbivore presence and abundance. Quat Res 71:490–496CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Reimer PJ, Brown TA, Reimer RW (2004) Discussion: reporting and calibration of post-bomb 14C data. Radiocarbon 46:1,299–1,304Google Scholar
  87. Reimer PJ, Baillie MGL, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck JW, Blackwell PG, Bronk Ramsey C, Buck CE, Burr GS, Edwards RL, Friedrich M, Grootes PM, Guilderson TP, Hajdas I, Heaton TJ, Hogg AG, Hughen KA, Kaiser KF, Kromer B, McCormac FG, Manning SW, Reimer RW, Richards DA, Southon JR, Talamo S, Turney CSM, van der Plicht J, Weyhenmeyer CE (2009) IntCal09 and Marine09 radiocarbon age calibration curves, 0–50,000 years cal BP. Radiocarbon 51:1,111–1,150Google Scholar
  88. Richardson MJ (2005) Coprophilous fungi from the Faroe Islands. Fróðskaparrit 53:67–81Google Scholar
  89. Roussell A (1941) Farms and churches in the Mediaeval Norse settlements of Greenland. Medd Grønland 89:1–354Google Scholar
  90. Ryan PA, Blackford JJ (2010) Late Mesolithic environmental change at Black Heath, south Pennines, UK: a test of Mesolithic woodland management models using pollen, charcoal and non-pollen palynomorph data. Veget Hist Archaeobot 19:545–558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  91. Sandgren P, Fredskild B (1991) Magnetic measurements recording late Holocene man-induced erosion in S. Greenland. Boreas 20:315–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Schofield JE, Edwards KJ, McMullen AJ (2007) Modern pollen-vegetation relationships in subarctic southern Greenland and the interpretation of fossil pollen data from the Norse landnám. J Biogeogr 34:473–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Schofield JE, Edwards KJ, Christensen C (2008) Environmental impacts around the time of Norse landnám in the Qorlortoq valley, Eastern Settlement, Greenland. J Archaeol Sci 35:1,643–1,657CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Schofield JE, Edwards KJ, Mighall TM, Martínez-Cortizas A, Rodríguez-Racedo J, Cook G (2010) An integrated geochemical and palynological study of human impacts, soil erosion and storminess from southern Greenland since c. AD 1000. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclim Palaeoecol 295:19–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. Simpson IA, Vésteinsson O, Adderley WP, McGovern TH (2003) Fuel resource utilisation in landscapes of settlement. J Archaeol Sci 30:1,401–1,420CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Stockmarr J (1971) Tablets with spores used in absolute pollen analysis. Pollen Spores 13:615–621Google Scholar
  97. Stuiver M, Reimer PJ (1993) Extended 14C database and revised CALIB radiocarbon calibration program. Radiocarbon 35:215–230Google Scholar
  98. Sydgrønland V (1998) Narsarsuaq/Narsaq/Qaqortoq. Scale 1:100.000. Greenland Tourism a/s, NuukGoogle Scholar
  99. Tweddle JC, Edwards KJ, Fieller NRJ (2005) Multivariate statistical and other approaches for the separation of cereal from wild Poaceae pollen using a large Holocene dataset. Veget Hist Archaeobot 14:15–30CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  100. Van Geel B, Buurman J, Brinkkemper O, Schelvis J, Aptroot A, van Reenen G, Hakbijl T (2003) Environmental reconstruction of a Roman Period settlement site in Uitgeest (The Netherlands), with special reference to coprophilous fungi. J Archaeol Sci 30:873–883CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  101. Van Geel B, Zazula GD, Schweger CE (2007) Spores of coprophilous fungi from under the Dawson tephra (25,300 14C years BP), Yukon Territiory, northwestern Canada. Palaeogeogr Palaeoclim Palaeoecol 252:481–485CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Weidick A (1976) Glaciation and the Quaternary of Greenland. In: Escher A, Watt WS (eds) Geology of Greenland. The Geological Survey of Greenland, Copenhagen, pp 430–459Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and EnvironmentSchool of Geosciences, University of AberdeenAberdeenUK
  2. 2.Department of ArchaeologySchool of Geosciences, University of AberdeenAberdeenUK

Personalised recommendations